Monday, August 27, 2012
I gotta admit, after driving for hours and hours and hours to get to Telluride, I was a little skeptical to get back in the car.
But my friend Dre is nothing if not adventuresome and she couldn't wait to load us all up to head to Ouray, Colorado. It's just a hop-skip-and-8of8-only-had-to-pee-once-on-the-road-trip-over from Telluride. And you get to drive past Ralph Lauren's amazing ranch.
Which kind of makes you feel a little neighborly with him.
Even if I was disappointed that I didn't see itty bitty guys on polo horses riding across his lands...
But I digress...
Ouray is a beautiful little town, one of several burgs that appeared during the height of Colorado mining during the 1800's.
I wish there was a way to photographically express how majestic and towering these mountain faces were over the valley.
At one end of the canyon is a deep chasm. We peered out over the side, hanging on to the viewing platforms.
See that hot mama in the cowboy boots and amazing hair and sassy shorts? That would be Dre. Whose cabin and family we had invaded. Whose middle name is Adventure. I looked like a slouch the whole trip, she looked all kinds of adorable and accessorized, even when we were hiking to 13,000 feet.
I have got to up my hiking fashion game.
They call Ouray the Switzerland of America and it's shots like this that make me see why...
Look at that sky...
During the winter, climbers like to take on this gorge to test their climbing skills with ropes and crampons.
I'm perfectly happy to let them do that...and to promise to stay out of their way.
All kinds of gorgeous...and deep.
8 of 8 was all kinds of a pistol that day. He made me a nervous wreck, spinning like a top alongside the steep path. Good thing his oldest brother was determined to hang on to his squirmy self.
7 of 8 was quite happy to take in the view, enjoy the breeze and collect a few rocks...
3 of 8 got to take a little time to look super cool and do some rope climbing.
He was the oldest kid on the trip, given that 1 and 2 of 8 weren't able to go with us due to work and school commitments. 3 of 8 was simply incredible, helping corral kids, deal with his squirrely youngest brother and playing protector to all the sisters, both biological and friend.
We hit town after our little hike for an amazing lunch at a local bistro. And there may or may not have been a little retail therapy afterward...
But in addition to gorgeous views and great food and awesome shopping, Ouray has another awesome little feature. The whole place is running with hot springs. And they've figured out a way to capture this magic. And channel it into a huge set of pools. Where kids can go to swim and steep like tea bags and get worn out.
Ouray just kept getting better and better...
We let the kids steam and soak in the mild afternoon climes...
Goodness. Austin, Texas, I love you. But I have a roving eye for Telluride and her sister towns like Ouray.
And I'm a little partial to the hot springs pools at Ouray because I got one of my favorite shots of 5 and 8 of 8 there. Ever. Look at these brothers...
The afternoon began to wain.
And too soon it was time to hit the road...(don't these guys look like long lost brothers? The one on the left belongs to Dre, the one on the right to me...)
We headed back to the cabin with a van full of warm, tired, happy kids.
And you'll be happy to know that I blew Ralph as-in-mister-Lauren a kiss as we passed back by his little ranch.
I can feel in my heart that he appreciated it....
Sunday, August 26, 2012
You're blessed when you stay on course, walking steadily on the road revealed by God.
You're blessed when you follow his directions,
doing your best to find him.
That's right—you don't go off on your own;
you walk straight along the road he set.
You, God, prescribed the right way to live;
now you expect us to live it.
Oh, that my steps might be steady,
keeping to the course you set;
Then I'd never have any regrets
in comparing my life with your counsel.
Psalm 119 (MSG)
After every race, we promise ourselves.
My running partner, JT, and I. After every race.
We promise to keep running with the same discipline, to keep logging the same kind of mileage that we did for race training. This time, we say, this time we won't slack off.
To her credit, JT works harder at keeping that victory vow.
And I, um, not so much.
I put in a few miles here and there. I take some leisurely jogs, I pursue some new training charts, I intend, I intend. I intend.
But then a new race looms on the calendar. And the training must start in earnest.
That's when I know. For sure.
That I haven't stayed the course.
I've strayed the course.
How tough it is to get back into race shape. The first few training runs feel just miserable, compounded greatly by the fact that I know just a few short weeks ago the miles were moving easily under my feet.
And now I'm having to fight to accomplish any kind of distance.
My spiritual race can look like that. I can come from the high of a time of fasting, a time of study, a time of discipleship. And I think, "I'm staying in this kind of spiritual fitness. I'm going to maintain and improve from here. I'm going to hang on to this new level and go even higher!"
And then the next day comes. And the next distraction comes. And the next wave of laziness comes. And I'm back to leisurely jogs and good intentions and creative excuses.
Only to wonder again at the ground I've lost.
And what it takes to regain it.
It's my perspective that is the issue. I'll train like crazy for a race inked on the calendar, the entry filled out and signed, the fee paid. And I'll spiritually train like crazy for the next speaking engagement, the new class starting, the next writing assignment, races for me.
But it's in seeing those races as singular events that trips me up in my best intentions.
It's all one big race. Every day. Whether there's an event on the horizon or not. Whether there's a deadline looming or not.
The race continues all around me, even when I choose to see it as a race here and there.
I'm back at it, training for one of my favorite races, Chosen, supporting international adoption. And I'm shaking my head at myself as I struggle to crank out mileage that just a few months ago was no big deal. I'm dazzled again at the wisdom in just.staying.the.course.
With my feet.
With my heart.
With my spirit.
In the race of life.
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
So imagine that you have some friends that you love to hang out with. And imagine that those friends have some kids that your kids love. And imagine that every time your crew and their crew get together, there is all kinds of laughter and chaos and fun.
And then imagine that those friends have a beautiful cabin in the mountains.
And they invite you to come spend a week with them there.
With as many of your kids as can come.
Which, in our case, meant that we were able to load up six of the eight kids. And Mike and I.
And we invaded these kind, generous people. For over a week.
It really happened. We actually have friends who are that generous. And crazy.
At least, last I checked we were friends....
Dre? Hey, Dre? Call me, okay? Friends?
We've just arrived back from a trip to Telluride, Colorado. It was all kinds of magic. And hiking. And waterfalls. And amazing restaurants. And shopping.
We drove overnight to the western side of the Rockies, pounding caffeine, hunting for gas stations and potties. We arrived a couple of hours after lunch, slightly punchy and extremely excited to be reunited with our friends and to take in their little piece of paradise.
We were not disappointed.
Our first hiking excursion was to Bear Creek, the trail head appearing just at the end of a street near one end of town. We began making our way up the path and within moments were engulfed in towering aspen trees and stunning views of the peaks.
The kids took to the 10,000 feet above sea level air with ease. They laughed, trotted, skipped and charged up the slopes, anxious to see around every curve.
I didn't know how 7 of 8 would do. Her gait, her left foot and leg turning inward in response to her stroke, make for some slow going at times. She tires easily. And above all that, she is a princess. As in, a 'Princess and the Pea' type.
She doesn't believe in sweaty. At all.
That first day of hiking was a little tough on her. The total mileage of the hike was about 5 miles, and she's never come close to walking that far all at once. And as she would tire and wear down a bit, she would let us know. Persistently. With a side of whining.
I carried her part of the way. Mike carried her part of the way. Our friend carried her part of the way.
And she hiked a lot of it. A lot.
Acclimating to the change in elevation was better than we had hoped. Our friends had told us to start drinking water, lots of water, tons of water, once we passed Albuquerque.
And stopped at every available restroom. Which made those last several hundred miles all the longer.
But that next day, as we climbed and hiked and huffed and puffed, we were very grateful for the advice.
Particularly when we got to see things like this:
...and most importantly, this...
Monday, August 13, 2012
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Listen! My beloved!
Look! Here he comes,
leaping across the mountains,
bounding over the hills.
Song of Solomon 2:8
I'm sitting at 9000 feet above sea level today, embraced by the peaks of the western Rockies as I perch at the breakfast table before a panoramic window displaying an intoxicating view of sunlight and mountains, aspens and awe.
We are in Telluride, Colorado.
In the home of precious and generous friends.
And, as of today, Mike and I have been married 23 years.
Mountains and marriage.
Both God's idea. Both beautiful. Inspiring.
We climbed a beautiful trail a couple of days ago, heading toward a waterfall. Most of the kids took off like eager jackrabbits, churning up the trail, snapping pictures, tossing around jokes. The twins tended to hang back with the adults, holding our hands, asking for the next snack time, giving us up-to-the-minute details on their fatigue levels, their thirst levels, their queries about how much longer we would be hiking.
For 7 of 8 in particular, it was at times tough going. The way she throws her left foot and the uneven terrain made her work hard. We began having her set 'goals', visually picking out the next place on the trail she was headed for, whether a particularly large tree or a notable boulder. She climbed, she worked, sometimes we carried her, sometimes she whined and cried.
But ultimately, she conquered that trail.
It was the furthest she has ever walked.
And it got me thinking about the trail Mike and I have been on, this climb of 23 years of marriage. There have been times I've joyously scampered up the trail. There have been many times I've whined. We struggled over the rough terrain of moves and job changes and parenting a large brood. I've stood at the base of my strong personality and had to figure out what needed to be chipped away to allow us to continue our journey.
But oh the view.
The history, the memories, the laughter, the shared vision. It has not always been an easy trail.
But it has been worth it.
Thank you for marrying me, Michael. Thank you for scaling the mountain of marriage covenant with me. Thank you for being the man you are.
Thank you for staying on the trail.
Mountains and marriage. Both God's idea.
Saturday, August 4, 2012
Friday, August 3, 2012
Oldest son and youngest son.
They are so much alike in some ways. And so different.
Oldest son was born into a family with two older sisters. He was our first boy, our only boy for almost six years.
So he was the baby.
And the only.
And then, once 5 of 8 was born, the oldest brother.
He was almost 11 when the twins were born, when his mini-me, 8 of 8, entered the world.
And he has embraced his role as the oldest of the three boys. He is their mentor, their protector, their instructor, something of a second dad at times (much to their consternation).
Oldest and youngest.
Both so sweet.
Wednesday, August 1, 2012
It was bound to happen.
And I totally understand. It's part of the terrain of blogging, of writing about our personal lives and opening up our experiences to the world wide web.
A few readers have recently written and asked about 1 of 8 and the guy she dated for quite a while, a relationship chronicled on my blog through posts and photographs.
'Cuz the deal is, the relationship ended a year ago. And in the experience of blogging, I wasn't quite sure how to handle that, how to communicate that, in the resulting wake of emotion and in honoring them both.
But it's been a while now. And I told 1 of 8 that I had some readers asking about it. I asked her how she would feel about me writing a little something about it.
And she said it was fine, that she understood why people would be curious and that the experience was worth sharing.
Our oldest kids have all chosen to be older before entering the dating game. It's not a family rule or anything. It's a decision each of them has arrived at as they have evaluated their goals and choices. And 1 of 8 entered this particular dating relationship from all the right places. We are dear friends with the guy's family~~still are. We come from a similar faith background. There was a strong foundation of friendship and history before dating ever entered the picture. Lots and lots of things were right.
And it took a couple of years to realize that even with so many things that were right, goals and dreams and career paths were not going to take them the same direction.
And so they made a decision. A decision to not continue the romantic relationship. And to my observation, even though it was very tough for all involved, there was a lot of respect and honor and heart that went into that decision.
I questioned myself after all was said and done. Should I have ever blogged about it? Was that an area that put too much pressure or gave too many details or should have not entered the 'public' arena of my blog?
But on the other hand...
It's life. And there are always things to be learned. And I think there is a lot of value to say to kids and parents out there:
Even when it seems like the stars have aligned...
Even when there is strong friendship...
And the families love each other...
Even when a situation has been prayed over...
Even when personalities and senses of humor and likes and dislikes match...
It sometimes just doesn't work...
And the courage to just call it...